Monthly Archives: September 2017

Fall Maintenance Checklist: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

It’s finally happening: The warm summer breeze is fading into crisp fall weather–and this means that it’s time to start prepping for the winter months ahead. Cold, wet weather can take its toll on a property, and the cost of repairs can mount quickly–unless you’re proactive.

Here are 9 helpful tips that should be on everyone’s fall maintenance checklist, from landlords and property managers to homeowners associations.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

1. Do end-of-season yard maintenance. This doesn’t just include raking the leaves (although that’s important, too!). It also means trimming the hedges, fertilizing the grass, trimming unwieldy branches, and removing any weeds or roots that may impact siding, patios, and walkways.

2. Pack up and store outdoor items. It may seem a little premature to do now–but if the recent spate of hurricanes is any indication of what the rest of this season will look like, it’s a good idea to start now. Clean, pack up, and store outdoor furniture, grills, and other items that could be damaged by late fall or winter weather. If your property is located in a hurricane-prone area, be sure to tie down any large items that could wash or blow away.

3. Drain water lines. If your property is located in a cold-weather climate, now is a good time to turn off the water leading to outdoor spigots. Turn off sprinkler systems and drain outdoor hoses to prevent water from freezing and bursting the lines.

4. Clear debris from gutters. One of the best things about fall is watching leaves transform into beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow. But it only lasts for so long–and then those leaves fall, clogging gutters in the process. Be sure to clear all debris from rain gutters to prevent water from pooling–or worse, causing roof damage.

5. Inspect the roof. Climbing up a ladder and getting onto the roof is not for the faint of heart, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to ensure that the roof is in good condition when you’re heading into the winter months. Loose or missing shingles are easier to replace during the fall. Otherwise, you could face costly roof repairs caused by hail, sleet, and snow.

6. Seal windows and install storm doors. Aging seams and weather stripping around windows and doors often lets cold air in and warm air out. This drives up heating costs, which can add up for landlords and HOAs that pay for heat as part of their fees. Seal drafty windows and doors with caulk, install new windows if necessary, and swap out screens with storm doors and windows.

7. Prep your HVAC system and water heater for winter. Nobody wants to wake up on a cold winter morning to find that there’s no heat or hot water. Prevent that from happening with some routine HVAC maintenance. Make sure that vents are clear and filters are in good working order. Consider draining the water heater (flushing the system on occasion prevents sediment from building up in the tank). Last, store or cover up AC units for the winter.

8. Insulate pipes. Frozen pipes are a nightmare. In the best case scenario, a hairdryer will be able to thaw the pipes enough to get water flowing again–but in the worst case scenario, a frozen pipe could burst, and you could end up with water all over the basement. Check all pipes to see if any need to be insulated. Foam insulation may not be sufficient in particularly cold climates. You may want to consider wrapping pipes with heated electric cords that can be switched on during especially cold weather.

9. Make fire safety a priority. House fires spike during the winter months, particularly as residents turn to space heaters to keep warm. Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and be sure that each unit has a working fire extinguisher. If your property has a fireplace or wood stove anywhere on-site, be sure that all vents are clear and flues are operational. It may be worth re-caulking the chimney cap to prevent obstructions–small animals love to burrow in chimneys during the winter months!

There’s no doubt: fall maintenance can be daunting! In our experience, however, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring an extra set of hands to help with your fall maintenance checklist and beyond. When that time comes, All Property Management will be here to connect you with experienced property managers in your area.

The post Fall Maintenance Checklist: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure appeared first on APM.

What About Mail From Former Tenants With No Forwarding Address?

Whether the rental unit is in between tenants or your current tenant keeps bringing you mail for a previous resident, it’s annoying to deal with mail from former tenants with no forwarding address.

When people move, they are supposed to provide the United States Post Office with their new address. Here’s what to do with old mail for a former tenant with no forwarding address.

Simple Technique For Mail From Former Tenants With No Forwarding Address

The easiest way to deal with mail from former tenants with no forwarding address is to write “Return to Sender,” “No Longer At This Address” or “Moved” on the outside of each envelope.

The post office will take note and return the mail to the sender. That business or individual will hopefully update their records and stop sending mail for that person. The post office will also update their records.

Landlords should know that the post office is usually very good about making changes such as this. Eventually, most of the mail for the previous tenant should stop.

Other Ways to Handle Mail From Former Tenants With No Forwarding Address

If the errant mail delivery still persists, landlords may have to take a few additional steps. Leaving a note on or inside the mailbox for the mail carrier is often effective. The sticky note should say something like “Former Tenant’s Name is not at this address” or “Please deliver mail only to Current Tenant’s Name.”

Most mail carriers will quickly learn to sort the mail and take out anything addressed to the previous tenant.

If the problem still persists, landlords can speak directly to their mail carrier. Or they can take a trip to the local post office to speak to the station manager. They can make the specific request about the previous tenant’s mail there.

RentPrep’s Take On Mail From Former Tenants With No Forwarding Address

The landlords we associate with agreed that the post offices in their areas eventually sorted out the problem. After a few notices, most mail carriers were able to take care of the former tenant’s mail.

The bigger problem always seems to be not having the former tenant’s forwarding address for other purposes. Landlords need it to return some or all of the security deposit. They also need it if they need to go after the tenant in small claims court.

The other advice that landlords have for each other is to never open a previous tenant’s mail, no matter what. It is against the law for anyone to open mail not addressed to them. Even throwing the mail away is considered a form of mail theft.

What Are Other Landlords Saying About Mail From Former Tenants With No Forwarding Address

A landlord shouldn’t have to spend much time dealing with mail from former tenants with no forwarding address. A few simple steps should remedy the problem quickly.

Here’s a screenshot of landlords discussing this question in our private Facebook group for Landlords.

mail from former tenant with no forwarding address

 

You can see even more comments on that post by checking it out in the group.

The post What About Mail From Former Tenants With No Forwarding Address? appeared first on RentPrep.

#174 Renters Insurance (rebroadcast)

It’s something most landlords don’t think about until they have an angry tenant or a situation that occurs at the rental.

Who’s responsible for the big party where a tenant’s guest was injured?

Well, if they have renters insurance you’re in the clear.

In this episode Eric, Steve, and Jeff discuss why renters insurance is something you may want to

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Can I Charge A Tenant For Mold?

Many landlords have questions about what kinds of repairs they can deduct from the tenant’s security deposit. After all, there can be a lot of gray area when it comes to wear and tear. Most of the damage is discovered after the tenant has moved out and the landlord has a chance to look at the rental. It’s common to spot toxic mold at inspections.

Many landlords wonder if they can charge a tenant for mold that they discover in the rental property.

When Landlords Should Charge a Tenant for Mold

The presence of mold in rooms with excessive moisture, like bathrooms, is very common. That’s because mold likes to grow in damp, dark spaces. If tenants don’t follow some basic mold-prevention steps, it’s easy for the fungus to grow on walls, tile, tubs and more.

Rental units should be completely mold free before move in. Tenants are then responsible for keeping it mold-free. If tenants don’t properly ventilate the bathroom during and after showering, for example, mold can grow on the walls, ceiling and more quite quickly. Failing to clean regularly can also lead to mold.

Sometimes, tenants don’t report problems with leaking pipes or other moisture issues to the landlord. If there’s no report, the landlord cannot fix it. This can also lead to mold problems.

Ultimately, landlords should charge a tenant for mold if it was caused by something the tenant did or failed to do.

When Landlords Should Not Charge a Tenant for Mold

Sometimes mold grows in places where it’s hard to see. The cause of the moisture may be due to excess humidity or extra rainfall during a spring or fall season. It can even be a leaking pipe in between the walls that is only noticed when the mold has flourished. Faulty roof shingles, roof venting and down spouts can also contribute to water getting inside a house.

If the tenant reports the problem as soon as it is noticed, landlords have the responsibility to treat it at their own expense. Mold can spread rapidly, so treatment should be immediate.

If landlords fail to act quickly to make repairs and treat the mold, causing more mold damage, that is not the tenant’s fault.

Tenants should not be charged for mold issues if it was caused by something the landlord did or failed to do. They should not be charged if the mold is due to a structural issue or simply an accident.

RentPrep’s Take On Whether to Charge a Tenant for Mold

The landlords we associate with understand the difference between mold issues caused by tenants and those caused by outside circumstances.

As with any case involving deductions from the security deposit, there are different state laws. Most states require an itemized list of deductions. Some states require tenants get copies of maintenance work and material receipts. Landlords should always keep photos of the damage and document all the repair work.

It should be noted that mold issues can often be caught early by scheduling regular inspections of the unit. Some states don’t allow these, while others do.

What Are Other Landlords Saying About How to Charge a Tenant for Mold

Every landlord wants to keep their rental property in excellent shape. Mold can quickly turn a nice unit into one that is uninhabitable. It can also be costly to restore. That’s why it’s important for both landlords and tenants to work together to prevent mold. If mold does appear, it needs to be clear that it is caused by the tenant before charging them.

Here’s a screenshot of landlords discussing this question in our private Facebook group for Landlords.

charge a tenant for moldYou can see even more comments on that post by checking it out in the group.

The post Can I Charge A Tenant For Mold? appeared first on RentPrep.

Why You Should Stage a Cozy Fire Pit Area

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Fire features, like outdoor fire pits and fire tables, are in demand. The National Association of Landscape Professionals calls it one of the hottest landscape trends for the fall, based on a recent survey of 5,000 of its member landscapers. These hot-spots can be a great way to show […]

Crazy State Laws For Landlords

It’s not unusual for states to pass laws that are unique to them. This is especially true when it comes to landlord and tenant laws.

Sometimes, state laws for landlords seem to create more problems than they solve. Other laws are not nearly as efficient or effective as they should be.

When asked to share some of the unusual, frustrating or crazy state laws for landlords, members of RentPrep’s private Facebook Group expressed their thoughts.

Crazy State Laws for Landlords Regarding Rent

In California, landlords cannot require tenants to pay the rent in cash. Instead they must accept other payment options. The exception is that if a tenant has bounced a check, the law lets landlords require cash only rent payments for three months.

Many states, like Ohio and Massachusetts, require landlords to keep the security deposit in a separate interest-bearing account at 5% interest. Landlords must pay the interest to the tenant annually, even if it is just a few dollars.

Lots of states have strict laws about how much security deposit landlords may collect. It is usually capped at one or two month’s rent. However, landlords can collect additional deposits for certain items, like pets or waterbeds.

In rent-controlled units of San Francisco, if an apartment features a fine view that was advertised as a perk of living there, and new construction blocks that view, the tenant can apply to have their rent reduced.

Crazy State Laws for Landlords Regarding the Rental Property

Unlike most other states, the law in Arkansas favors landlords when it comes to abandoned property. They can take possession of any abandoned property left in a rental and do what they want with it. Arkansas landlords do not need to notify the tenant at all.

Arkansas is also the only state in the country that does not have an implied warranty of habitability. This means landlords are rarely liable for repairs or upkeep of a property.

In Michigan, the law states that no more than four unrelated adults can live in a rental unit. In New York, no more than three unrelated adults can live together in a rental property.

In Oregon and Maryland, once a person sets up residence in a property (abandoned or otherwise) the state recognizes them as being an official tenant. This is true even if they haven’t signed a lease. Eviction is the only way to get them out.

In Seattle, landlords must obey the first come first served law and approve the first qualified applicant that applies.

RentPrep’s Take On Crazy State Laws for Landlords

The landlords we associate with were mostly frustrated with laws that seemed unusually strict when compared to other states. It seems that most states over regulate in many areas when it comes to landlords and rentals. Still other states have a very hands-off approach to rental properties, with few restrictions.

State laws can appear reasonable until they are compared to other states. This can prompt landlords to wonder why their state chose to make that law the way it is.

What Are Other Landlords Saying About Crazy State Laws for Landlords

Every landlord needs to learn their state laws regarding rental properties. It’s only then that they should look across state borders to compare and contrast with how landlords in other states manage.

Here’s a screenshot of landlords discussing this question in our private Facebook group for Landlords.

crazy state laws for landlords

You can see even more comments on that post by checking it out in the group.

The post Crazy State Laws For Landlords appeared first on RentPrep.

6 Things to Consider Before Allowing Marijuana Use at Your Property

Attitudes toward marijuana use have shifted greatly in recent years. Eight states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation allowing for recreational marijuana use, and another two dozen states permit its use for medicinal purposes. Still, marijuana is considered an illegal substance under federal law.

This has created a hazy situation for landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations trying to decide whether or not to allow marijuana use. Marijuana use in rental properties seems benign enough to allow–but is it?

Here are six things to consider before creating a policy on marijuana use in rental properties:

  • Is there a mortgage on the property? This is important because most loan documents contain language that requires the borrower to comply at all times with both state and federal laws. Because it’s still banned by the federal government, allowing marijuana use in rental properties could result in a breach of your loan documents.
  • Have you accepted any public subsidies for your property? This includes everything from tax credits used for building renovations to residents who pay with Section 8 vouchers. These programs typically require full compliance with state and federal laws, so marijuana use in rental properties could be considered civil or criminal fraud.
  • Who else could be at risk? It isn’t just the property owner who could be held liable for breach of state or federal laws. Homeowners associations, property managers. and other agents acting on behalf of the owner could also be held liable. All stakeholders should be involved in the conversation before determining whether or not to allow marijuana use in rental properties.
  • Does your insurance company cover damage caused by illegal activities? Review your policy closely. For example, Colorado experienced a spike in apartment fires after it legalized recreational marijuana. Many of the fires were caused by tenants trying to condense marijuana into a concentrated form using butane. Your insurance company may not cover damages determined to be a result of marijuana use in rental properties, even if local laws allow it.
  • Are you willing to pay for any costs associated with smoke damage? Units exposed to smoke–from marijuana, cigarettes, or otherwise–cost more to recover and maintain. Over time, smoke becomes embedded in the walls, carpets, and other permeable materials. It can require quite the effort to remove evidence of smoke altogether. This not only impacts the existing residents, but also future residents. Anyone who has asthma, emphysema, or other lung conditions may have difficulty breathing in a unit that has been exposed to smoke.
  • How will marijuana use affect other residents? Unfortunately, smoke and smells cannot be contained to a single unit. Not only could this be a nuisance to other residents, but it may also impact their health. A growing body of evidence suggests that secondhand smoke easily infiltrates nearby units, and secondhand smoke can be as harmful to others as it is to the person who’s smoking! Allowing marijuana use in rental properties may open landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations to complaints–or worse, lawsuits if someone claims that secondhand smoke has caused them adverse health conditions.

State Laws on Marijuana Use in Rental Properties

As always, you’ll want to examine local, state, and federal laws closely before you determine whether or not to allow marijuana use in rental properties. Laws can vary drastically from state to state.

In Michigan, for instance, private property owners can refuse to rent to anyone who smokes or cultivates marijuana on the premises, as long as that’s stipulated up front in the lease agreement. In Massachusetts, landlords cannot prohibit the consumption of marijuana edibles or other non-smoking forms. In Rhode Island, no landlord may refuse to lease to or otherwise penalize someone for his or her status as a medical marijuana cardholder.

Once you adopt a policy, be sure that it’s enforced consistently:

“I would advise a landlord that you need to uniformly enforce the rule,” says Michigan lawyer Matthew Paletz. “You can’t just pick and choose, because then you could face some discriminatory blowback.”

Laws regarding marijuana use in rental properties can be a lot for new landlords or homeowners associations to wrap their heads around, particularly as the regulatory environment continues to change. An experienced property manager will be well-versed in these regulations and can help keep you protected.

Interested in speaking with a property manager in your area on these matters and more? All Property Management is here to help.

The post 6 Things to Consider Before Allowing Marijuana Use at Your Property appeared first on APM.

6 Things to Consider Before Allowing Marijuana Use at Your Property

Attitudes toward marijuana use have shifted greatly in recent years. Eight states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation allowing for recreational marijuana use, and another two dozen states permit its use for medicinal purposes. Still, marijuana is considered an illegal substance under federal law.

This has created a hazy situation for landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations trying to decide whether or not to allow marijuana use. Marijuana use in rental properties seems benign enough to allow–but is it?

Here are six things to consider before creating a policy on marijuana use in rental properties:

  • Is there a mortgage on the property? This is important because most loan documents contain language that requires the borrower to comply at all times with both state and federal laws. Because it’s still banned by the federal government, allowing marijuana use in rental properties could result in a breach of your loan documents.
  • Have you accepted any public subsidies for your property? This includes everything from tax credits used for building renovations to residents who pay with Section 8 vouchers. These programs typically require full compliance with state and federal laws, so marijuana use in rental properties could be considered civil or criminal fraud.
  • Who else could be at risk? It isn’t just the property owner who could be held liable for breach of state or federal laws. Homeowners associations, property managers. and other agents acting on behalf of the owner could also be held liable. All stakeholders should be involved in the conversation before determining whether or not to allow marijuana use in rental properties.
  • Does your insurance company cover damage caused by illegal activities? Review your policy closely. For example, Colorado experienced a spike in apartment fires after it legalized recreational marijuana. Many of the fires were caused by tenants trying to condense marijuana into a concentrated form using butane. Your insurance company may not cover damages determined to be a result of marijuana use in rental properties, even if local laws allow it.
  • Are you willing to pay for any costs associated with smoke damage? Units exposed to smoke–from marijuana, cigarettes, or otherwise–cost more to recover and maintain. Over time, smoke becomes embedded in the walls, carpets, and other permeable materials. It can require quite the effort to remove evidence of smoke altogether. This not only impacts the existing residents, but also future residents. Anyone who has asthma, emphysema, or other lung conditions may have difficulty breathing in a unit that has been exposed to smoke.
  • How will marijuana use affect other residents? Unfortunately, smoke and smells cannot be contained to a single unit. Not only could this be a nuisance to other residents, but it may also impact their health. A growing body of evidence suggests that secondhand smoke easily infiltrates nearby units, and secondhand smoke can be as harmful to others as it is to the person who’s smoking! Allowing marijuana use in rental properties may open landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations to complaints–or worse, lawsuits if someone claims that secondhand smoke has caused them adverse health conditions.

State Laws on Marijuana Use in Rental Properties

As always, you’ll want to examine local, state, and federal laws closely before you determine whether or not to allow marijuana use in rental properties. Laws can vary drastically from state to state.

In Michigan, for instance, private property owners can refuse to rent to anyone who smokes or cultivates marijuana on the premises, as long as that’s stipulated up front in the lease agreement. In Massachusetts, landlords cannot prohibit the consumption of marijuana edibles or other non-smoking forms. In Rhode Island, no landlord may refuse to lease to or otherwise penalize someone for his or her status as a medical marijuana cardholder.

Once you adopt a policy, be sure that it’s enforced consistently:

“I would advise a landlord that you need to uniformly enforce the rule,” says Michigan lawyer Matthew Paletz. “You can’t just pick and choose, because then you could face some discriminatory blowback.”

Laws regarding marijuana use in rental properties can be a lot for new landlords or homeowners associations to wrap their heads around, particularly as the regulatory environment continues to change. An experienced property manager will be well-versed in these regulations and can help keep you protected.

Interested in speaking with a property manager in your area on these matters and more? All Property Management is here to help.

The post 6 Things to Consider Before Allowing Marijuana Use at Your Property appeared first on APM.

#173 Tracking Down A Former Tenant

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You’ve evicted a tenant and they’ve skipped town and you don’t know where to find them.

Steve White and Jeff will be discussing all about how to find your tenant that has left without a trace.

One resource mentioned in the podcast is to send a mailer that looks like this (courtesy of USPS).

This will allow you to get a postcard back in the mail of the address that your tenant is having their mail forwarded to.

This only works if your former tenant forwarded their mail though.

Check out this episode of the RentPrep For Landlords podcast

The post #173 Tracking Down A Former Tenant appeared first on RentPrep.

Do I Need to Provide a Receipt for Security Deposit or Rent?

In the age of electronic financial transactions and digital deposits, many landlords wonder about whether or not they are required to provide a receipt for security deposit or rent.

Like most issues that have to do with rental properties, the answer is that it depends on several factors. Landlords should always have written records of transactions, but that doesn’t always mean that they have to generate a receipt themselves.

When Should Landlords Provide a Receipt for Security Deposit or Rent?

Electronic payments are extremely popular now for landlords to collect rent. These kinds of transactions create their own electronic receipts to both the sender and the recipient. Landlords with this kind of setup don’t have to do anything regarding a receipt.

Fewer and fewer landlords actually deal in cash, money orders or checks anymore. However, if a landlord ever accepts cash or a money order, they should always write out a receipt. Landlords that accept checks can treat the cancelled check as the tenant’s receipt.

No matter how the landlord has the payment process structured, there should always be a record of the transaction, regardless of who or what generates the receipt.

State Law May Require Landlords to Provide a Receipt for Security Deposit

Every landlord knows that the security deposit and the rent are two different financial transactions. State laws often stipulate how each one should be handled, from the amount to how it is deposited. It’s always a good idea to treat these two things separately so that there is a bank record of each one.

Some states, like Illinois and Massachusetts, require the landlord to hold the security deposit in an interest bearing account and present the receipt to the tenant. Other states, like Ohio and Texas, have no laws regarding separate accounts.

When it comes down to it, each landlord must know their own state laws about how they are to treat the security deposit, and whether that means they issue a receipt or not.

RentPrep’s Take On Landlords Who Provide a Receipt for Security Deposit or Rent

The landlords we associate with are fairly unanimous about issuing receipts by hand when they are paid by cash or money order. Most treat cancelled checks as the tenant’s receipt.

Issuing a receipt is often a personal preference. Some landlords do so as part of their accounting, and some even have software that creates receipts, either physical or electronically.

Others have a digital payment system set up. When the tenant makes a payment, they have verification that it was done.

Ultimately, landlords need to figure out a system that works best for them, as well as their tenants.

What Are Other Landlords Saying About Whether to Provide a Receipt for Security Deposit or Rent?

Every landlord needs to do what is best for their rental property and their budget. The methods of smoke odor removal vary based on what has and has not worked for them. They share brand names and where to purchase certain products, as well.

Here’s a screenshot of landlords discussing this question in our private Facebook group for Landlords.

You can see even more comments on that post by checking it out in the group.

The post Do I Need to Provide a Receipt for Security Deposit or Rent? appeared first on RentPrep.